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On March 30, it was reported that six attendees at the Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic religious reform movement in Delhi's Nizamuddin locality, had died of COVID-19.
Twenty-three states and four union territories started trying to identify, isolate and test 1,306 people who attended the religious congregation of nearly 4,000 at Markaz Nizamuddin.
According to an NDTV report, around 7,600 Indians and 1,300 foreigners with links to the Islamic missionary group have been identified. The number, however, may increase as search for members of the Tablighi Jamaat is underway.
Data collected by the Home Ministry till April 1 shows that out of the attendees, 1,051 have been quarantined, 21 have tested positive and two have died.
This incident led to fact-checking websites reporting a barrage of fake news targeting Muslims for the pandemic. Video clips shared on Facebook and WhatsApp purportedly showed Muslims actively working to spread the virus in India.
Ever since March 30, there was a sudden surge in fake news and Islamophobic propaganda on social media, with hashtags such as #CORONAJIHAD and #NizamuddinIdiot trending on Twitter.
The Logical Indian has curated a list of top five fake news targeting Muslims in India.
A 30-second video of a fruit vendor licking his fingers while handling fruits on his cart is doing rounds on social media with the claim that Muslims are purposely spreading the COVID-19 disease in the country.
The video is being extensively shared on social media platforms including Twitter and Facebook and has also crept into WhatsApp groups with text saying that the man in the video is spitting and putting his saliva on the fruits, thereby infecting them.
The incident occurred in Madhya Pradesh's Raisen district. No cases of COVID-19 have been reported from Raisen yet.
The man identified as Sheru was arrested on Friday, April 3, after the police authorities took cognisance of the viral video.
Accessed FIR reveals that the incident took place on February 16, 2020. The complainant Bodhraj Tipatta said that he had shot the video while sitting at his friend Bhavishya Kumar's pan shop when he saw this fruit vendor "infecting" the fruits with his saliva.
Sheru's daughter Fiza has claimed that her father is mentally unstable. She informed that her father was beaten by the police after a case was filed against him.
The old video was twisted out of context and shared after the Tablighi Jamat incident with even television channels picking up the story of the "Corona-criminal".
A video of a restaurant worker blowing air into a paper bag is viral on social media.
The clip is being circulated on WhatsApp with a message that reads, "Many Muslims who own restaurants like the Empire, Imperial, paramount, Beijing bites, Hyderabadi Biryani House, Bawarchi biryani, etc employ Muslim cooks who are brainwashed by ppl who attended d Tablighi congregation in Delhi."
After breaking the video into multiple frames using the digital verification tool InVid, we performed a Google reverse image search of multiple keyframes and found that the video is from April 2019.
We located the video on a Chinese website where it was shared 11 months ago.
Other reports also stated that the video was much older than what the claim suggests.
We could not find the exact origin of the video, however, we were able to ascertain that the video predates the coronavirus pandemic.
Amar Ujala on April 5 reported that participants of the Tablighi Jamaat had asked for non-vegetarian food and defecated in the open at a quarantine facility located in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh.
"After Uttar Pradesh's Bijnor, a new case of Jamaatis has also come to light in Saharanpur. When they did not get non-vegetarian food, the Jamaatis here threw away the food and defecated in the open," read the report.
The claim is false.
In a statement released by the Saharanpur police which they have titled, 'News vs Truth', they have denied such claims. In their official Twitter account, the police stated that the claims were "wrong and untrue".
Amid the chaos surrounding the congregation organised by Tablighi Jamaat, another video of Muslim men sitting on their knees and praying is doing rounds on social media platforms.
The video is shared with the claim that the people are sneezing deliberately to spread the novel coronavirus. The video was allegedly shot at Hazrat Nizamuddin mosque in Delhi and is widely shared social media.
The claim is misleading. Since the video shows people inhaling and exhaling in an exaggerated manner, a Google search with the keywords 'Muslim inhaling ritual' was done which led to the concept of 'Zikr'.
There is a traditional order in which Allah's names are mentioned in zikr, and each one is repeated several times, usually hundreds of times in unison by the group.
Certain movements, such as swaying back and forth or turning from right to left, are incorporated into the activity during the intonations and are likewise performed in unison.
Since Zikr is usually performed at a Dargah, it is highly likely that the video could have been filmed somewhere else and not at Nizamuddin mosque which is also known as Tablighi Markaz or Bangle Wali Masjid.
It can be argued that the video might be from the Nizamuddin Dargah which is about half a kilometre away from the mosque. However, the Dargah has clarified on Twitter that it is a separate institute regarding a different claim by AajTak News channel.
A video clip showing a group of people, mostly youth belonging to the Dawoodi Bohra community huddling around utensils and licking them, is being widely shared on social media.
The video is shared with the claim that Muslims are deliberately spreading Coronavirus in the country amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although old, the video is real and being shared with the misleading claim. Searching Google with the keywords 'Mulsim', 'Licking', 'Plates' and 'Saliva' revealed that the video dates long before the COVID-19 pandemic occurred.
According to the description of this video, the people in the video under the leadership of the Bohra chief priest Syedna Mufaddal were cleaning the big plate called Thal, so as not to waste food.
As India approaches the end of the 21-day lockdown announced by PM Modi to contain the spread of COVID-19, Indians continues to suffer from the other virus: Islamophobia.
COVID-19 cases and communal hate are steadily rising. On WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and even television news channels, fanaticism is bubbling all over.
Let us not vilify and stigmatize an entire community for an isolated incident conducted by a few.
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